This week I signed up to an online photography-based course by Henry Lohmeyer, which I found out about via a friend on Instagram. The course is called “Shine” – which seemed perfect, as I already said one of my Biggest Lessons of 2016 was that it’s time for me to shine my light.
I signed up a couple of days late, and I was finding it really difficult to pin myself down – take time out to think about the prompts, so that I could write down my thoughts and take or find suitable photographs.
When I looked at everyone else’s posts and photographs in the Facebook group, I felt even less able to join in – everyone else’s photographs were stunning, and their comments were deep and meaningful, whereas mine sounded like I was writing an essay or a report!
A week late, I’ve got over my “comparisonitis” (more or less), and I finally have the first week’s prompts and photographs all together.
Day 1: Fear
I recently came across a quote, attributed to American Modernism artist Georgia O’Keefe, which really resonated with me:
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
I have a kind of love/hate relationship with Fear. Yes, it definitely does hold me back at times – but it also eggs me on to do / be more.
I tend to be a leaper: I leap into things without thinking too much about what they might entail, because I know that will surely put me off (this course is a case in point!) But, having leaped, I often get cold feet, either “forgetting” about the thing I’ve leaped into, or ignoring the elements of it that scare me.
But I do eventually come round – and when I do, I find myself in another country (sometimes quite literally!!) that is full to the brim with new experiences and challenges. And that’s what I love about Fear.
Day 2: Hiding
About ten years ago, my husband and I got chatting with another couple in a pub, after we sat down at their table. Out of the blue, the woman asked me: “Why do you hide your light under a bushel?”
I hide, in part, because I have always believed that other people’s lives are more interesting than mine, and in part because it feels boastful to talk about the things I’ve done, that I feel proud of.
Over the past couple of years, the stories I’ve shared have mostly been about my health. It’s a safe topic, because it doesn’t feel boastful, and there’s no way anyone could feel envious. And in some ways, it’s sharing the most vulnerable part of me. But it’s not a sustainable way to share my story and connect with people.
A while ago, a friend said “I don’t know what you stand for.” That’s because I don’t want to come across as though I’m saying “this is what I believe, and it’s The Truth, and you should believe it too.”
I want people to think for themselves – and the best way to inspire others to find their own Truth is to simply live in whatever way makes us truly happy. So that’s what I’m making it my purpose to do.
Day 3: Reflect
I don’t often take time to reflect, so this course has been an interesting exercise. I tend to live very much in the present, with no great plans for the future (and no worries!) and no regrets about the past (what is done is done). Every day is an opportunity to start afresh.
As individuals, we all reflect the world around us. If people like us, or don’t like us, it’s because they see a reflection of something they either like or don’t like about themselves.
I love taking photographs of reflections – especially nature reflected in water, or old buildings reflected in the shiny glass of more modern structures. And if I can get a reflection of myself in the picture, even better!
Day 4: Listen
As an introvert, I’m often a better listener than talker. I enjoy listening to other people’s stories. I relate to the world through stories – mine and other people’s.
When I trained as a Life Coach, I learned how to really listen – without forming an opinion based on the first few words, or working out an answer while the other person was talking. I still try to listen that intently to everyday conversations – but often, in my excitement to share and join in, I forget.
I’m getting better at listening to my heart, though. I used to be good at it when I was younger, but somewhere along the line I lost the knack under the mistaken belief that other people knew better.
Sometimes you just need to tune out the noise and listen to that still, small voice…
Day 5: Hope (and my photography practice)
I never used to call myself a Photographer, even though I’ve been taking photographs for over forty years.
Most of my photographs have been taken on my travels. Until I got a digital camera, around ten years ago, I didn’t take any photographs of my local area, because I didn’t want to clutter the place with prints or slides of places I only had to step outside my door to see.
When I was in my twenties, I used to always carry a camera with me, so people got used to me taking their picture. But the cameras got bulkier, so it wasn’t so easy to carry them. And I became self-conscious about photographing people – I hardly ever do it now.
I love digital because it’s immediate, and it’s also easily disposable if a picture doesn’t work out the way I hoped. I don’t tend to get too attached to whether a photograph has worked out, unless it’s of people or a place I might not see again.
As with Life, I don’t really have any preconceptions about how an image will turn out. I take my time when I’m taking photographs, so I’m not very good at candid shots – I’m too slow to take in what’s happening and frame the action.
For years, I didn’t see the point of taking photographs, because I wasn’t travelling – and even if I was, I had nobody to share my photographs with. Nobody likes a photography bore!!
For Christmas 2014, when I was recovering from chemo for metastatic breast cancer, my husband bought me an iPhone, because I had been talking about getting one – and he knew I never would. That’s when I discovered Instagram.
These two things – the iPhone and Instagram – changed my life.
They gave me hope.
Now I carry my iPhone with me all the time, and I can take photographs (and make films) very easily, wherever I go – and share them with a ready-made community that I know is interested in looking at photographs and films.
Nowadays I tend to make films more often than I take photographs. I love looking for movement, and changes in the light. It’s so much easier to capture the essence of a place, or a person, with a moving image than it is with a still image – so I have great respect for anyone who can do that with stills.